FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Stepping between heaven and hell

Posted in England, Peterborough by folkestonejack on May 1, 2017

Our visit to Hardwick Hall last year has set us on a mission to visit the surviving prodigy or wonder houses in England, eager to see just how daring the courtiers of the Tudor and Jacobean age could be in building their showstopping palatial residences. The next on our list, Burghley House, proved to the perfect choice for a Bank Holiday weekend and amply demonstrated why it deserves its label as one of the treasure houses of England.

Burghley House

Burghley House was the creation of William Cecil, principal Secretary and Lord Treasurer to Elizabeth I. The construction took place in stages between 1555 and 1587, though the palace has been re-shaped by many significant alterations since then. It certainly cuts a striking shape as you approach it from across the park but this is nothing compared to the astonishing decoration inside.

A walk through the state rooms leaves you in no doubt of the intention to impress, but it is the rooms commissioned by the fifth Earl of Exeter in the 17th century that deliver the knockout punch. The Earl’s choice of artist, Antonio Verrio, spent a decade at Burghley House decorating six rooms (and quarrelling with just about everyone in that time). Each has its own wow factor but the most extravagant of these, the heaven room, goes much further.

On stepping into the heaven room you are immediately transported inside a temple open to the skies, filled with figures from mythology in a re-telling of the story of Mars and Venus. Such is the power of the illusion that it feels as though you are in a busy room even when you are standing alone admiring the detail, whether your focus be Vulcan’s forge or the self-portrait that Verrio cleverly included. Once you have absorbed this, the next doorway takes you into the darkness and despair of the hell staircase. Quite extraordinary.

The walls include a fair number visual representations of the household. You clearly didn’t want to get on the wrong side of Verrio or risk being immortalised unfavourably! The cook found this out to her cost, ending up as a six-breasted woman in one room, whilst the priest is shown as a drunkard in two rooms. You can get a better impression of these astonishing sights through the superb set of 360 degree views of the staterooms which are available on the Burghley House website.

After leaving the house we enjoyed a pleasant wander through the gardens, admiring a selection of modern sculptures, before heading home in late afternoon. As you might have guessed, we thorough enjoyed our visit and would highly recommend a trip to Burghley House.

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Deltic delight at Stamford

Posted in England, Peterborough by folkestonejack on May 1, 2017

On my travels there have been a few occasions where I have timed our journeys to co-incide perfectly with a passing steam special or the like, with a degree of eye-rolling when I protest that it was pure chance to my by now very clued up better half. However, there are occasions when I am completely surprised and it takes some convincing that I genuinely didn’t know about whatever has appeared.

Just such a situation occurred on our Bank Holiday outing to Burghley House. It was pretty clear that something was expected by the number of photographers standing ready in the fields and in country lanes as we made our way by train to Stamford. On arriving I joined a small gathering of photographers and waited. I probably should have asked what it was we were waiting for, but thought I would enjoy the surprise…

55018 ‘Ballymoss’ passes through Stamford

After a twenty minute wait we were treated to the superb sight of class 55 Deltic locomotive 55022 ‘Royal Scots Grey’ (in the temporary guise of 55018 ‘Ballymoss’) storming through the station at the head of a three locomotive convoy. I like surprises like this, even if it does take me a devilishly long time to convince anyone that I hadn’t planned our chance encounter!

I later discovered that this was the movement (running as 0Z55) of the deltic from the Nene Valley Railway at Wansford to the Severn Valley Railway at Kidderminster, with 31271 and 45041 ‘Royal Tank Regiment’ in tow. All three locomotives will be appearing at the Spring Diesel Festival at the Severn Valley Railway on May 18th, 19th & 20th.

Shire survivor

Posted in England, Peterborough by folkestonejack on February 16, 2015

In the mid twenties Nigel Gresley, one of the greatest locomotive engineers of the steam age, began to design a new locomotive for intermediate express duties on the LNER network. The result was the D49 class of 4-4-0 locomotives, each named after a shire county or fox hunt. Seventy-six locomotives of this class were built at Darlington works between 1927 and 1935, mostly allocated to the Scottish and NE areas.

I have long wanted to see the sole survivor from this class in steam, but as the locomotive (No. 62712 Morayshire) is normally based at the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway this is not so easily arranged! My last attempt failed rather miserably as she was not rostered for service when we were in the area, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that a number of photocharters had been organised by Timeline Events for the start of 2015 at locations much further south. I opted for a day on the Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough.

Class D49 locomotive No. 62712 Morayshire

Class D49 locomotive No. 62712 Morayshire

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for today’s photo charter made grim reading, particularly with the threat of heavy rain from midday until mid-evening. I’m not complaining – this is the chance that you always take with a photo-charter but it is a little more frustrating when you know that the forecast for tomorrow is for sun all day long! Conditions aside, Morayshire was a wonderful sight in steam.

Morayshire had the longest working life out of her classmates prior to preservation, having been one of the earlier locomotives to have been built (in February 1928) and she was the very last to be withdrawn (in July 1961). The late Ian Fraser, a former LNER locomotive engineer, purchased the locomotive and donated her to the Royal Scottish Museum, ensuring the long term survival of an example of the class.

Morayshire heads towards Peterborough in light rain

Morayshire heads towards Peterborough in light rain

For most of her time in preservation she has worn the familiar LNER apple green livery, but for the last 18 months of her boiler ticket (which expires at the end of 2015) she was repainted in the BR lined black livery that she wore at the end of her working life. After her overhaul she will return in apple green.

Morayshire can be seen at the Nene Valley Railway’s 35A New England Steam event this weekend (21st and 22nd February 2015), which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the closure of New England Shed to steam.

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